Australian authorities vaccinated all its soldiers against anthrax before they went to Iraq. What it did not do, however, was to tell them that most of its soldiers who returned from Afghanistan previously, got ill from taking the same vaccine.

Thank God the soldiers sent to Iraq did not have the unusual side effects the previous soldiers had had.

Most of the Australian troops sent to Afghanistan in 2001 became ill, said the Australian government.

Officials are saying they did not tell the soldiers bond for Iraq because they did not want to make them anxious. They also said that they did not expect the soldiers this time round to suffer any side-effects.

75% of the soldiers sent to Afghanistan became ill as a result of taking the Anthrax vaccine. Confidential papers were released to an Australian newspaper under Freedom-of-Information Rules.

The soldiers experienced swelling, a high level of pain and flu-like symptoms as well. They never found out what caused the side-effects, suspended the vaccination programme for several weeks and then resumed it.

Australian military doctors have suggested that other factors could have contributed to the side-effects felt in Afghanistan. The soldiers were working at constantly changing altitudes, they had high physical workloads and the temperatures fluctuated a great deal.

In 2003, the authorities still went ahead and vaccinated all their troops sent to Iraq, even though they knew what had happened to their troops who had taken this vaccine before. The authorities did not even know what had caused the side-effects.

In order to demonstrate faith in the vaccine, Robert Hill, Australia's Defence Minister, vaccinated himself just before the troops were sent to Iraq.

About 40 service people were sent back from Iraq because they refused to be jabbed (vaccinated). They have not been disciplined.

So far, no unusual side-effects have been reported since the troops came back from Iraq.

'We were in a position where all we would have been able to tell them was that there had been a problem,' Air Commodore Tony Austin told reporters.

'We had not been able to identify a cause from that and we had absolutely no evidence to suggest that we were likely to see that again, based on overseas experience and our own experience when we reinstituted the programme in Iraq. So, I think to have advised people of that would have been quite counterproductive. I think that would have increased anxiety levels amongst our people.'

Opposition party defence spokesman, Chris Evans said 'The defence department hasn't been honest with the troops, hasn't been honest with the parliament, and the minister needs to provide answers as to what's gone on here."